Four years into my first divorce I was dropping my kids off at their mom’s house. My little girl was six and my son was twelve at the time and we had reached a point where the routine of visits had established some continuity in their lives. Yes, it took four years. Up to one night in particular, my daughter would often ask when she’d be going back to mom’s house long before departure time and the inquiry would sting me to the core. On that one particular night, though, as we sat in my truck outside their mother’s house, my little girl lingered at my side, slid her arm around mine and squeezed.
Her brother hopped out and grabbed his homework, but she didn’t relent, holding me tighter. “I don’t want to leave you,” she said. She didn’t want to leave me. I had waited for this moment, worked so hard to gain her trust back after years of taking her seeming rejection so personally. The logic of her being a mom’s girl was lost on me, instead I felt like a depreciated dad, despite my efforts. Selfish and narcissistic, I know, but that’s where my angry mind was.
“It’s okay, sweetie.” I tried to assuage. It wasn’t the best of timing. I was working in broadcast news at the time, directing a ten o’clock nightly show and was needed back at the studio by nine to start the run-down. I was already late and there was no one to call.
“I want to stay with you.” It was a school night on top all else that was pressing. “Come to the studio with me tonight,” I said, the wrong call. She didn’t like it there, the stress of a live show turned me into Mr. Hyde, though more of a Disney version. She knew I had to go, squeezed me even tighter and kissed me, and reluctantly slid across that bench seat and dropped out to the sidewalk. “I love you.”
She closed the door and joined her brother at the porch and the two went inside waving as they did. I put the truck in drive and had a heart attack.
An unusual one, albeit. My jaw clenched, pain radiated down my left shoulder and arm and I did my best to ignore it. Made it all the way to the studio, in fact. I made it to the lobby where I was met by a producer who immediately sized me up, “You’re having a heart attack,” and down I went. He called the paramedics.
I had a second more severe MI later that night in the cardiac care unit, not a bad place to have one. Cardiologists ran the usual gamut of tests with puzzling results; damage, but no blockage, no plaque. After a lengthy interview about the day’s events and those in my life that had brought me to that moment, the cardiologist pronounced that I had a broken heart.
Indeed. I lived with that diagnosis for two weeks when it was then revealed that a medication I had been taking for the past three years was causing heart damage. But to this day, I’d stick to the first diagnosis. It wasn’t oxygen deprivation that caused my pump to fail, it was depreciation.
Read through my blog and you’ll find that I’ve had my share of joy and pain. The pain parts I’d never wish on anyone, suffice it to say I understand grief and mourning, I’ve endured physical and psychological stress to extents of post traumatic stress, but all of this pales when put aside the devastation of being discounted. I can think of no ache worse than being rejected by someone you believed once valued you.
Now, let me stress, my broken heart was not the result of my little girl. In fact, she’s my healer. Instead it was the result of my agreeing with the contextual circumstances of my perceived depreciation.
The depreciation that ends marriages happens long before the outright rejection and is symptomatic in the absence of gratitude. This takes hold as relational time increases and sensitivities wane, obscured by routines and worries, or obliterated by ego and narcissism.
The daily grind is enough to make many sensitive souls numb to feeling or expressing gratitude. Throw a crisis on top of the grind, the loss of a job, an illness, a death in the family, and most quickly wounded hearts lose the capacity to appreciate, intent, instead, on just surviving the ordeal.
Worse, though, and truly the damaging plaque at the heart of any relationship is the mind’s growing incapacity to appreciate due to selfishness. Disappointments ferment to regrets, expectations amplify in their own justification, and resentment displaces kindness. Kind actions go unnoticed, kind words remain unspoken where entitlement instead becomes the default response. As soon as we believe ourselves to be entitled to better treatment, chances are we’ve stopped appreciating.
Depreciation grows a discounted soul. While there are men who know this feeling, I’m writing about the exponentially greater amount of women who suffer depreciation on account of their image, their sensuality, and their efficacy in living.
Guys don’t get it. This is a rash generalization, but I’d bet you’ll nod your head here in just a moment. We do not understand the impact of comparing a female companion to any other woman. It’s one thing to appreciate beauty, but quite a depreciator to leer at it. Such is the grit of pornography. No partner, female or male, is ever going to compete with the silicon version of a fantasy sex partner, even if aesthetics are equal. Why?
Because pornography has no conscience. It doesn’t care how sexy you are, how adept you can be at foreplay, how often you can orgasm. Porn doesn’t have to roll out of bed in the middle of the night to calm a child, or in the morning to provide that first or second income. What porn does so well is spawn expectation and when unfulfilled, depreciation. While I’m positive that neither sex is immune, I’d wager that men default here faster and deeper than women, because porn turns women into parts for men, while it turns men into fantasies for women.
I’ll throw in a caveat here. The inclusion of erotic material in a couple’s sex life can possibly be a good thing, but left to one partner in a relationship, the outcome will at the very least depreciate the other partner’s image and sensuality.
Male narcissism has reached levels of being diagnosed as a personality disorder and perhaps is one of the most recognizable influences in depreciation of women. Self-righteous and aggrandizing patriarchal orders have been culturally perpetuated for generations and thrive in conservative contexts. Where masculine and feminine roles are discriminately (some might say traditionally) defined, the feminine roles tend to be discounted in value. One need not look too far to witness cultural subjugation of women in earnings and education and when this metastasizes into expectations in the home where women hope to be equal, depreciation becomes the malignancy.
So, I’ve mixed metaphors here, heart disease and cancer. Anyway you look at it, the discounted soul is not healthy. Here is the importance, then, of grounding your value within yourself, a self-appreciation, unlike narcissism, a habit of personal communicative behavior that upholds inherent values of efficacy, beauty, intelligence, spirituality, power, strength and worth. When personal foundations are grounded in internal values versus external expectations, rejection loses its destruction and gratitude can prevent a broken heart.